Indian gang rapes, American high school jocks degrading a drunk young girl, the very existence of Jimmy Savile. Violence against women appears, if not on the rise, then finally getting the headlines the long-silent stats deserve.
But while women are right to protest this wave of vile assaults loudly, where are the male voices? Because this whole mess makes blokes look really bad. If the male species were a company, there’d be a memo or two flying around to put some new policies in place or at the very least a PR charm offensive.
For one, Men Inc. should be enthusiastically getting behind the One Billion Rising campaign on February 14. The ‘one billion’ refers to the number of women worldwide that will experience violence in their lifetime; that’s one in three.
Chances are you know one, chances are you love one, chances are, with our global culture of blaming the victim, they haven’t even told you that something happened to them. One Billion Rising asks for a billion women and men to strike, dance or just share why it is we should put an end to this culture on their website.
The board of Men Inc. should back the hell out of this day, but there are some things that individual employees can do too.
Men who rape and assault women are still, thankfully, in the minority. I do not knowingly know any rapists or thugs that hit women, but I know a fair few casual sexists, I work with some serial leerers and I have had toe-curling conversations at urinals with misogynist strangers.
And more often than not I didn’t call them out. I worry that this passivity in the face of serial sexism provides a potential rapist with a leg up, a step of shared misogyny, however small, that puts rape just a little more within their reach.
If my thin smile at your belittling blonde joke was even one tiny tile in the mosaic of rape culture, I’ve decided I’m out. I wouldn’t smile politely if you ogled a ten-year-old kid.
We can, as blokes, talk about the issue, not skirt around it. Pun intended as a nod to those great guys in India who joined the “Don’t Skirt the Issue” marches, pins proudly protruding from the titular attire.
We can step in if some idiot on a bus threatens to cut a French woman’s tits off for singing, in what was a breathtakingly boofheaded mash-up of racial hatred and threatened sexualized violence in the one economic sentence. Or better still we could record it and internationally shame the moron.
We can pass the message on to our kids. My wife and I are charged with raising two boys who will one day be friends, colleagues, partners and maybe even dads. I would like to send them out into the world with positive views on women, then they can tell others – like a pyramid selling scheme where everyone keeps their shirts.
What we can’t do is nothing. It is not enough to be a nice bloke, a good bloke, a decent bloke – if you are also being a quiet bloke.
What’s stopping you? The fear of being labelled a feminist? You could try the increasingly popular “profeminist” tag for males, though to me it sounds like a cop out. Kind of like being a “prochocoholic” – either you love chocolate or you don’t, the same goes with believing in equality for women.
Because I don’t want to see a woman nervously playing with her phone and looking over her shoulder at me just because we’re walking the same way on a quiet street at night.
I don’t want to worry about my wife, a grown woman, when she has a few too many drinks out with friends in town and I don’t ever want to hear about another horrific video like the one following the Steubenville rape of a drunk student. In it, jocks mock the victim’s comatose state and resulting rape one-upping each other like a repellant rap battle. At some point some kid timidly asks, “What if it was your daughter?” The rapists brag that they don’t care.
I believe them. In the aftermath of such a psychopathic crime that question is about as useful as an umbrella in a tsunami. But maybe, just maybe, if it was asked earlier, more often and more insistently of all forms of sexism it might start to have an effect.
*The One Billion Rising campaign invites women, girls, and the men who love them to dance in Sydney on February 14 at St Mary’s Cathedral. Visit www.girlpowergoddess.iwannaticket.com.au to register for the event from $5 or buy a T-Shirt. All profits will be donated to the Sydney Women’s Shelters.
*Paul Chai has been a journalist for over twenty years, working for publications like the Sydney Morning Herald and the UK’s Guardian newspaper. Currently he is the foreign correspondent for Los Angeles-based film bible Variety reporting on the Australian film and television industry, as well as being a freelance journalist which sees him cover everything from whale watching, meat raffles, children and bars though not at the same time. You can follow him on Twitter: @chai_paul.